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Deck'd with their crowns, in all their pomp of state,
Heaven-loved Old Man! to gild your natal day
Then when, not abjectly discharged, my trust
• Mr. W. Gifford, the author of the Baviad, whose probity of heart, and benevolence of manners conciliate as powerfully in private life, as his poetic and critical talents strike in public, was so kind as to read the manuscripts of this translation, and of that of the Damon. The alterations which he suggested were few, and, excepting in one place, which shall be noticed, in the Damon, only of single words. The reader perhaps may wish that these suggestions had been more numerous, and of greater comprehension.
Mr. Todd informs me, that the Rev. Joseph Stirling has pubJished an elegant translation of this poem ; but I have not been so fortunate as to find it, though I have enquired for it at many of the principal booksellers in town.
From a passage in this poem, we may discover that the project of some great poetic work, which Milton had formerly intimated to his friend, Deodati, as existing then only in distant and indistinct prospect, was now brought closer, and in a more specific form to the poet's sight. The expanding consciousness of his own powers, the commendations of the Italian literati, and, above all, perhaps, the conversation, and encouraging judyment of the friend of Tasso seem now to have rendered him more resolule in his pursuit of the epic palm, and more confident of his success. “ I began thus far, (he tells us,) to assent to them,” (his Italian friends,) “and divers of my friends at home, and not less to an inward prompting, which grew daily upon me, that by labour and intent study, (which I take to be my portion in this life,) joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die." I
Although, from the example of the Italian poets, and from the difficulty of asserting a place eren in the second class among those of Rome, he was now determined to employ his native language as the tongue of his poetry, he was not yet decided with respect to its subject, or even to its form. “ Time serves not,” (he says,)“ and perhaps I might seem too profuse to give any certain account of what the mind at home, in the spacious circuits of her musing, hath liberty to propose to herself, though of highest hope and hardest attempting: whether that epic form, whereof the two poems of Homer, and those other two of Virgil and Tasso are a diffuse, and the book of Job a brief model; or whether the rules of Aristotle herein are strictly to be kept, or nature to be followed, which in them, that know art and use judgment, is no transgression, but an enriching of art; and lastly, what king or knight before the conquest might be chosen, in whom to lay the pattern of a Christian hero. And as Tasso gave to a prince of Italy his choice, whether he would command him to write of Godfrey's expedition against the infidels, or Belisarius against the Goths, or Charlemain against the Lombards, if to the instinct of nature and the imboldning of art aught may be trusted, and that there be nothing adverse in our clime, or the fate of this age, it haply would be no rashness, from an equal dili
f Reasons of C. Govern. P.W. vol. i. 120.
gence and inclination, to present the like offer to our own ancient stories."
The length of time, for which his mind had entertained this object, with the difficulty, and the reasons which urged him to be sanguine though not assured of its accomplishment, are subsequently stated. “ The thing, which I had to say, and those intentions, which have lived within me ever since I could conceive myself any thing worth to my country, I return to crave excuse that urgent reason háth pluckt from me by an abortive and foredated discovery: and the accomplishment of them lies not but in a power above man's to promise: but that none hath by more studious ways endeavoured; and with more unwearied spirit that none shall--that I dare almost aver of myself, as far as life and free leisure will extend,” &c. &c. “ Neither do I think it shame to covenant with any knowing reader, that for some few years yet I may go on trust with him toward the payment of what I am now endebted, as being a work not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like that, which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amourist, or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite; nor to be obtained by the invocation